Reflections on London, a spectacular mosaic and some links

This afternoon, I picked up my neighbour and her son from the central bus station. They had just got back from a trip to London, one of those bus tours that are fairly cheap, provided you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Case in point: The bus that was supposed to arrive this morning only arrived in Bremen in the late afternoon/early evening. Plus, my neighbours’ hotel turned out to be in Barking, i.e. pretty far out. In the pre-internet days, travel agencies often played that sort of bait and switch, telling people that hotels were close to the city centre when they were half an hour on the tube or more from the centre. During my time in London, I lived in Harlesden. Further up the Bakerloo line, you have Wembley, which has a lot of hotels due to the stadium (still the old and beautiful one in those days). And I met (and sometimes rescued) lots of lost tourists on the tube.

On the plus side, my neighbours got a taste of authentic urban Britain that you don’t get if you just stick to the touristy bits of London. They had their pick of Indian restaurants in Barking (and cheaper than in the city) and a glimpse at how multicultural urban Britain is. There were also “chavs” (discussed in this blog before), the female version of which somewhat bothered the 14-year-old kid (“The skirts were so short and the heels so high – and the breasts… I think they were fake”) and amused the mother. Young British women in generally dress more provocatively than young German women which often bothers exchange students of both genders. This is also why I’ve never understood this whole “The British are sexually repressed” stereotype, because actual Brits are anything but.

Apart from the 10-hour-drive and the “chavs” of Barking, the two of them really did enjoy themselves. The kid told me that compared to London Bremen seemed so small and grey. “Yeah, I know the feeling”, I said, “It passes after a week or so.” He had also been mightily impressed by the Forbidden Planet flagship store (I’d turned him on to Forbidden Planet, because it’s heaven for geeky kids). Apparently, the Harry Potter merchandise was the big draw for him – he’s a big fan. For me it was usually comics or Doctor Who that drew me to Forbidden Planet. And of course, the kid was already regretting not having bought something he wanted. I know the feeling, I also regret not having bought the remote controlled talking Dalek when I had the chance. “Pst, they also have an online store”, I told him.

I had to wait a bit for the bus to arrive. Since the central bus station is next to central train station, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the big clock at the central station. I need a photo of a giant clock for an upcoming Pegasus Pulp cover and the station clock was the best bet. Though actually the clock inside the station was better suited to my purpose then the clock on the outside of the building.

While I was at it, I also took a photo of this spectacular mosaic inside the grand entrance hall.

Mural

Brinkmann mosaic inside Bremen central station

This mosaic is actually an advertisement for the Brinkmann tobacco company dating from the 1950s. The whole mosaic is even bigger than in the photo and spans the entire length of the entrance hall. The photo only shows the central image, there are also two side images depicting tobacco harvesting (left) and stylized Native Americans smoking tobacco (right). The mosaic had been covered up by billboards over the years and was only rediscovered when the central station was renovated in the early 2000s. There was some debate whether to remove it or restore it, but luckily they kept the mosaic, because it is a spectacular piece of commercial art.

And now for some links:

At Tor.com, Alyx Dellamonica wonders why we love caper/heist type stories. Noble thieves, caper and heist stories are one of those tropes that I cannot resist and will read/watch regardless of quality. Found via Auriaephiala.

Damien G Walter thinks that we should all write less. Personally, I think that every writer should write as much or as little as he or she feels comfortable. It’s a big fiction world out there and it has room for slow writers like George R.R. Martin, Tim Powers or Steph Swainston as well as for fast writers like Nora Roberts or Stephen King.

Besides, I have issues with Damien Walter’s “We are artists and shouldn’t expect to make a living from writing” stand. Because even though I don’t necessarily expect to make a living from writing, I sure as hell wouldn’t mind. Besides, this whole “true artists don’t care about money” stance all too quickly turns into “artists and writers don’t need to be paid, after all it’s not like they’re doing anything important like – say – plumbers.”

Finally, the winners of the 2010 Shirley Jackson Awards have been announced. I have no real opinion on most decisions except on the anthology and novelette, since I own and enjoyed Stories.

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